St. Paul, Minn. – State Pollution Control officials say a dog is dead after swimming in a Sherburne County lake that had developed areas of heavy algae growth.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) reports that a Brock Tatge;s family, including his dog Copper, were enjoying a day on Prairie Lake Sunday on the lake when the dog suddenly became very ill. Copper had been fetching his tennis ball from the lake.
"We noticed that Copper went on shore, began vomiting and panting very hard, and just looked very sick," Tatge told the MPCA. "I carried him to my truck and brought him to the vet's office." Copper's condition deteriorated and he died at the vets office. While the cause of Copper's illness has not been confirmed, the veterinarian who examined him believes the dog became ill after ingesting toxins from blue-green algae.
The MPCA is advising pet owners to check water conditions when dogs are playing near lakes or slow-flowing streams. Blue-green algae "blooms" have a thick, cloudy appearance that can look like green paint, pea soup, or floating mats of scum. Some, but not all, species of blue-green algae contain potent toxins that can be deadly to dogs, livestock, and other animals within hours of contact.
If possible, the MPCA advises dog owners to keep their pets away from algae-laden water entirely. If animals do enter water with heavy algae growth, they should be hosed off right away, before they have a chance to lick themselves clean. Animals become ill when they ingest the toxins, so preventing them from drinking affected water or licking toxins from their coat is key to preventing illness.
Algal blooms occur when lakes develop high levels of nutrients such as phosphorus. "This year's unusually heavy rainfall has carried tremendous amounts of nutrients into Minnesota lakes," said MPCA scientist Steve Heiskary. "If the rain slows down and we move into a period of hot, dry summer weather, we could see an exceptional number of algal blooms across the state in the coming weeks, even in lakes that do not normally experience them."
More information on harmful blue-green algae can be found at